The Public Role of the Pastor In The Community

Started by Dave Benke, December 18, 2012, 06:39:16 AM

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Mike Gehlhausen

The LCMS presidential nominees have released their answers to six questions on ministry and LCMS issues.

The questions and answers may be found here: http://blogs.lcms.org/2013/nominees-address-ministry-issues

I found this question appropriate for this thread. All of the answers are good, and address different aspects of the question. I suspect none of the nominees would take issue with anything another said.

Quote
Question 3: In an age where the Church's confession and practice are increasingly at odds with the surrounding culture, what should be the Church's role in the public square?

Harrison:
As the first LCMS president to testify before Congress, I have definite opinions on this issue (lcms.org/?pid=1374). The Scriptures repeatedly call upon us to confess the truth of Christ and His Gospel publicly (Mark 8:27ff; Matt. 5:14ff; Rom. 10:9-10). The First Amendment guarantees not only freedom of speech but the free exercise of religion. We have the right to act publicly according to the dictates of our Christian convictions. We joined the Catholics in fighting the Health and Human Services mandates because we see a definite threat to our own health plans and because the government has no right to dictate to church-owned institutions that they must act against long-standing religious conviction. The U.S. Justice Department officials have specifically noted that cases of sexual rights (not mentioned in the Constitution) trump religious rights. We will be in the public square, bearing witness to Christ. We need to be in the public square with others, defending our right to be and to act as Christians. The Alliance Defending Freedom and the Becket Fund helped us win what The New York Times described as "the most significant Supreme Court case on religious freedom in two decades" (New York Times, Jan. 11, 2012). The fight has just begun.

Mueller: We cannot hide from today's world. The Church must be out there with a clear witness for Christ, with mercy and care at every opportunity, fueled by a life together in the Word of God and the blessed Sacraments, where Christ unites us to Himself. Every congregation is placed right where God wants it, and it is surrounded by people who do not know Jesus or have become disconnected from Him. Synod and district support congregations in confessing Christ clearly while reaching out with passion to care for people. Witness without care falls flat. Mercy works apart from a clear witness are incomplete. And if a congregation (or Synod!) cannot live together in love, drawing from its communion with Christ, we will consume one another and have nothing left for witness and mercy.

Authentic proclamation of the cross, coupled with untiring care for people, are the ways Christ connects with the world through us. We engage our communities without compromise. We cannot participate in idolatry (1 Cor. 10:14) or allow what we say or do make it seem as though Christ is one choice equal to many others. Christ alone rose from the dead and has the keys of death and hell (Rev. 1:18).

Maier: God has called us out of darkness into His marvelous light to live in, reflect and draw others to His glorious grace. Through that saving grace, we are Great Commission people and great compassion people already in the public square, visible in it with mercy, witness and love. The present age resembles the first two centuries in which the Church engaged the surrounding world by living in the world, not avoiding it and yet not being "of the world" (John 17:16).

Engagement has always been challenging. While not without risk, it can also lead to opportunities for the faithful presentation of the Gospel of Hope, even as my grandfather, the first "Lutheran Hour" speaker, experienced. The critical juncture for the Missouri Synod is to encourage pastors and local congregations to engage the world in winsome and helpful ways, always being prepared to give an answer for the hope that we have, yet with gentleness and respect (1 Peter 3:15). This is still our Father's world, as we confess in the First Article of the Creed. We need to trust that the tools (weapons) with which we engage the world (the Word, prayer, etc.) are divinely powerful (2 Cor. 10:3-5).

Mike

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